"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Bee No 10: Australian Blue Banded Bee: Amegilla cingulata

For this project I am putting together a set of bees which hopefully will show their diversity and beauty, so variety in colour and shape and pattern is important. There are many different species from all around the world and as you would expect Australia has some unusual native bees.

This is the very beautiful Blue Banded Bee which has pale iridescent blue instead of yellow stripes and digs burrows in soft sandstone or clay for their nests.This is another solitary bee from the same family as the Hairy Footed Flower Bee from the last post.

The facts:

CLASS: Insecta
ORDER: Hymenoptera, Bees, wasps, ants and sawflies.
SUPERFAMILY: Apoidea. Bees and some wasps.
FAMILY: Apidae. Bees.
TRIBE: Anthophorini
GENUS:Amegilla
SPECIES: Amegilla cingulata

This website, www.aussiebee.com is a mine of information and is one of many which does its very best to encourage the public to understand and cherish their native bees, underlining their importance in pollination. This is another bee which performs “Buzz Pollination” (see my buzz pollination post here) and is now being seriously considered as a pollinator for commercial crops of tomatoes, eggplants and kiwifruit, as well as native plants such as Hibbertia, Senna and Solanum.

Up until now, tomato growers in Australia have had to use electronic fertilization methods and steps were being taken to import some European Bumble bees to help with the task. However the Blue Banded Bee has proved to be very capable and a breeding programme is now being developed.

Do watch this delightful short film from Aussiebee and see the males jostling for position on top of the twig, with a lot of cross leg waving. They will gather together here to rest..if they can agree..

Where and how bees rest at night is a fascinating subject and for another post, but these bees will gather together clinging onto twigs with their jaws.

Here is a photo by Anna Tambour of a " sleeping" blue banded bee from her post "The Sleeping Bees" which is lovely, as is her blog, Medlar Comfits here. I particularly like this as it shows her finger nail and gives you an idea of the size of these beautiful bees.

She also includes this quote from another site. Yallaroo Wildlife
"Unfortunately many gardeners have been conditioned to reach for poisons as soon as they see something with six legs and wings." Which is probably worth putting at the bottom of every post about bees

This bee had to show off its beautiful stripes. Also, its wings are much more transparent and lighter in colour than some others.

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Bee No 10: The Australian Blue Banded Bee, Amegilla cingulata

blue banded2

Watercolour on Arches HP, size 3.5 inches

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Hairy Footed Flower Bee.. yes really..

If ever a bee belonged in the world of the fairies this is it. The amazing Hairy Footed Flower Bee. I have painted the male, with its plumed feathery feet, its Roman nose and its equally endearing Latin name, Anthophora plumipes. I had not really given much thought to bees’ feet before I started this project but they are wonderful things.

See the plumes on the second leg..

Anthophora_plumipes02

photo by Jeffdelonge for Wikipedia here

Anthophora is another large bee genus with over 450 species worldwide. They vary enormously. Some are known as digger or mason bees and make wonderful elaborate homes with mud. This particular species is an early April bee and particularly long tongued, so able to make the most of tubular flowers such as the spring-flowering Lungwort, Pulmonaria, Comfrey, Symphytum, Cowslips, and the dead nettle family Lamium.

Adrian Knowles, Hymenoptera Recorder for the Suffolk Nature Society has this to say:

“At about 13mm long they are a little smaller than most bumblebees and they fly with very quick wings in a swift and darting flight, frequently hovering in front of flowers and so have a rather different “jizz” to their larger relatives. They are perhaps more reminiscent of rotund hairy hoverflies in their behaviour. They nest in tunnels excavated in steep, dry soil banks and .occasionally within the crumbling mortar of old masonry, as do several other solitary bees. Amazingly, they emerge from their pupae in late summer but remain in their sealed nest cells until the following spring – about 6 months spent as an adult just standing still! The females are all black, with yellow/orange hairs on her hind legs (you may need to look carefully to avoid confusion with bees bearing yellow pollen on their hind legs). The males are strikingly different, with dark orange/brown hairs towards the front of their bodies, giving way to black hairs anteriorly. “ ………not forgetting those hairy feet!

from Suffolk’ s Box Valley (UK) Nature Website here which will also take you to some interesting books on Suffolk’s Natural History.

The reason for the extravagant hairiness is, of course all to do courtship. If you are a female Hairy Footed Flower Bee (but without the hairy feet as the females don’t have them), I guess you will appreciate the tender ministrations of your beau as he wafts his hairy feet over your antennae, transferring his own brand of irresistible aftershave as he does. It’s not quite my idea of romance, but then I am not a bee …yet.

Gordon Ramel of the excellent Gordon’s Solitary Bee Pages has another theory ... As the females are notoriously skittish, it is possible that the male covers his mate’s eyes with those hairy feet to calm her down, (or to knock her out with that aftershave)
He tells us more about this game little bee

“The males are territorial and tend to guard a home range which contains either, the sorts of flowers the females like to visit, or a site suitable for nesting. The male patrols around his home range spending time at each patch of flowers and or nest site chasing off intruders. He is very serious about this and defends his chosen resources from all comers whether they are a competing male bee or not. To drive intruders away from his range he accelerates straight at them very quickly and rams them with his head, he can knock out insects much larger than himself this way”

You will also find links to some very good illustrations on this page, and Gordon’s Earthlife site is fun and informative and about much more than just bees.

Here is a photo of the lovely black female Hairy Footed Flower Bee with her orange coloured back legs..

a plumipes female

The gorgeous female HFFB by rybaros from a Polish entomological site which has excellent insect photos here

This particular species Anthophora plumipes, is most common in the Europe but according to the excellent Discover Life site, after introduction in Maryland they can now be found throughout the Washington DC region. Look out for them if you live in this area.

I spent far too long researching and reading about these bees. Sometimes it takes a long time to collect even a small amount of accurate information. I am going to put a list of useful bee sites on the sidebar soon. However deciding how to draw this bee was not too difficult. Of course I had to include the feet, that Roman nose and it does have lovely big eyes. I am also getting a little more familiar with bee anatomy so I made a couple of quick sketches just to get the pose right and then got on with the painting.

anthophora sketches2

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Bee No 9: The Hairy Footed Flower Bee, Anthophora plumipes

hairy footed flower beesm

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Tawny Mining Bee: Andrena fulva

Small volcanoes erupting in your lawn in spring are a sure sign that you have some mining bees hard at work, and how very cute they are too.. and numerous.  I must admit my heart sank when I read there are over 1,300 species in the world…which one to choose? 

I decided on a  European one and one from the USA. From Europe this is Andrena fulva  the winsome little Tawny Mining Bee, extremely pretty in two tone russet and ginger, looking like a little bottle brush. This is the female. the male is not quite so colourful. The bee world has some very big colourful girls, rather the opposite to the bird world!

Photo of the male Andrena fulva by J C Shou, from great photo site Biopix here

andrena fulva male

Mining Bees or Digger Bees are solitary  and “IBRA” the International Bee Research Association has a  good PDF about solitary bees here. This is what they say about Andrena fulva 

The adults over winter in the ground and emerge in the spring. The females dig a tunnel into the ground, hence the need for easily workable soil, where the earth is bare or the grass is short. The tunnels are about 9mm in diameter and descend to a depth of 20 to 40 cm. At the end of the tunnel the bee will construct an oval cell and provision it with pollen and nectar. An egg is laid in
the cell, which is then sealed up. She then goes on to construct other branches to her tunnel and repeats the process laying about 5 eggs in her lifetime.
On cold days bees need to warm up before they can fly and so females are often seen in the morning sunbathing by tunnel entrances. “

bee-info42

Illustration from “How stuff works”  here.

And below, a lovely photo from Dick at www.citybirding.blogspot.com of his little tawny mining bee peeping out of her burrow.. he says;

“Once in their nest they stay quite still just below the opening until you get near and they shoot back down to the bottom of the nest, out of sight”

 

But, don’t worry about your pristine lawns.. just live with it for a few weeks and enjoy the bees. David Kendall is an Entomologist and has these kindly word for this pretty and useful bee,

“The Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva) is one of several species, commonly seen around gardens in early spring, which dig nest burrows in lawns and similar places. This bee is about the same size as a honeybee, but covered with fairly dense golden hairs.

The female bee makes a small volcano-like mound with the soil excavated from the nest. There may be many nests close together, giving the impression of communal life, but each female is actually working alone. Nesting activity lasts only a short time (perhaps 2-3 weeks), after which the small mounds of earth around each nest entrance soon disappear, with no permanent damage to the lawn. Take care not to confuse solitary bee nest mounds with the mounds of earth caused by the nesting activity of ant colonies. Solitary bee mounds have a single large entrance hole in the middle, and by watching for a short while on a warm sunny day, you will see the bees coming and going to collect pollen.

If left alone, these bees will often nest in the same area year after year, and provide an annual service by pollinating your early flowering fruit trees and shrubs (apples, pears, currants and gooseberries) and other garden plants - so helping to ensure good crops later in the year.

from his very nice readable site “Insects and other Arthropods” here

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Some preliminary sketches: I feel I should have included a little volcano and a ray of warming sunshine too.

sketch bg colsk sm

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Bee No 8: The Female Tawny Mining Bee, Andrena fulva

 

andrena col 

Watercolour on Arches HP w/col paper: image 3.5 “

Friday, 20 November 2009

Bee No7: The Beautiful Violet Carpenter Bee. Xylocopa violacea

This is the companion to Bee 6: the Southern Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa micans. The Violet Carpenter Bee is one of the biggest bees in Europe and has beautiful blue/violet coloured wings and a big shiny black body. It just had to be included in the set.

The facts:

CLASS: Insecta
ORDER: Hymenoptera, Bees, wasps, ants and sawflies.
SUPERFAMILY: Apoidea. Bees and some wasps.
FAMILY: Apidae. Bees.
GENUS: Xylocopa. Large Carpenter Bees
SPECIES: Xylocopa violacea

This bee is common to the Mediterranean and Central Europe and now has been spotted occasionally overwintering in the UK. It has the same bad wood chewing habits as the other Carpenter Bees. There is another species of furry tan Carpenter Bee the Xylocopa varipucta which is on my list to paint and has been described as like a small flying teddy bear and I may get round to it later. .. so many bees so little time!

Bad news for Bees of Baldwin Park

Yesterday, the tidiness police came round to Lake Baldwin and decreed the chopping down of untidy weeds. We are allowed an environmentally protected zone as long as it is neat. A mowing man arrived and the whole of the lovely messy tangle of flowers, grasses and reeds has been razed to stalks and stubble.

We had this….

bpark1

Now this, even this last clump of horsemint in the foreground was gone by lunchtime.

tractor

Gone are the Spotted Horsements, the Indian Blanket, the wild Blue and Golden Asters, the Yellow Tickseed, the grassy Bottle Brush, the Morning Glories, the Dog Fennel, the brilliant Scarlet Tassel Flower, the delicate purple headed Hairawn Muhly, the silvery Bushy Bluestem, the small Rattle Box shrubs, the Lopsided Indiangrass whose beautiful feathery tops glistened in the morning sun, the odd black dots of the Rayless Flowers, and various pretty Red Pea flowers, and that is to name just the few that I can identify … but we are tidy now.

Gone too are the singing frogs, the chirruping crickets, the sand wasps, the paper wasps, the clicking dragonflies, the beetles, the snakes, the lizards and a million bugs and flies and worst of all, my bees.
All is silent, still and a bit sad. Of course it will all be back in due course but it seems a shame.

But back to the Carpenter Bee and a simple sketch to just get the proportions right .

sketch 1

and a colour sketch

col sketch viol sm

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Bee No 7: The Violet Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa violacea

xylocopa crop

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Who’s got Beautiful Big Green Eyes then? Bee no 6.

I was going to paint the regular Carpenter Bee the one I see most of here but yesterday on the way home, on a straggly patch of horsemint, I noticed one that seemed to have slightly more gingery hair and a brighter blue sheen to its body, then I saw its eyes, its beautiful pale green/blue eyes. Wow…this is the male of Xylocopa micans,  the Southern Carpenter Bee.

carpenter bee sgreen eyessm

My only two half decent photos.. there is always something in the way !!

I read these are common in Florida so I probably just hadn’t noticed the subtle colour differences before.

The facts:

CLASS: Insecta
ORDER: Hymenoptera, Bees, wasps, ants and sawflies.
SUPERFAMILY: Apoidea. Bees and some wasps.
FAMILY: Apidae. Bees.
GENUS: Xylocopa. Large Carpenter Bees 
SPECIES: Xylocopa micans

The point of male carpenters having such huge eyes seems to be to help them spot females and also to fly in low light conditions.

PS. I really do sympathise with those whose houses have been drilled and perforated by these nice bees. It must be very frustrating. Trying to find an humane suggestion, it seems they don’t care for pressure-treated or painted wood. You can stuff the holes with wire wool which even they find a challenge and if you are a very noisy family they will move out. They don’t like noise. That’s probably why we didn’t see any in Spain.

..and just in case you thought I was joking yesterday about them being docile….

bee help

I had planned a quite different pose for the Carpenter Bee but the eyes have it, so a quick drawing to sort the pose out. 

micans sketch sm

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Bee No 6:The Southern Carpenter Bee Xylocpa micans

carpenter bee xylocopa  micans sm

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Gentle Giant of the Bee World, The Carpenter Bee

So I have a new love, he is big, black and hairy. Yes, today I had a real  “Ahhh” moment with a Carpenter Bee. On a beautiful sunny morning at Leu the Carpenter Bees were busy,very busy, all over this red flower (which I think is Egyptian Star Cluster, Pentas lanceolata).
The flowers are slight, the bees are heavy, so seeing one struggling to keep its feet, holding out a steadying finger seemed only natural. I thought it would fly away at such an intrusion but this lovely bee was happy to clamber aboard this firmer platform and continue collecting nectar, 4 feet resting on me and 2 on the flower. They are so busy nectar gathering that they scarcely notice you.  I should also add that they do not sting.

You see the problem, big bee, small flower.

 

and three more of these big chaps, trundling across the flower heads.

My bee photos are more luck than anything else. I take a lot, then it’s rather like those “find the hidden animals in the tree” outline drawings in kids puzzle books.. sometimes there is a bee in them and sometimes there is nothing.

This gorgeous handsome bee is Xylocopa virginica, the Common Eastern Carpenter Bee. It’s the biggest bee in the USA and can be up to a sizeable one inch long.
This one is the all black female taken again at Leu but last week.

carpenter female

Professor Stephen Buchmann writes about bees. Chris bought me his “Letters from the Hive” and I have found it hard to drag myself away. Here is a snippet from his very nice article about Carpenter Bees, for the US Forestry Commission’s “Pollinator of the Month” series here.

 “These gentle giants get their name from their life history habits of excavating precisely rounded galleries inside wood. Using their broad, strong mandibles (jaws), they chew into dead but non-decayed limbs or trunks of standing dead trees. Some species, like the eastern Xylocopa virginica, occasionally take up residence in fence posts or structural timbers, especially redwood, and become a minor nuisance. Inside their rounded branched galleries, they form pollen/nectar loaves upon which they lay their giant eggs (up to 15 mm long). The female forms partitions between each egg cell by mixing sawdust and her saliva together. These partition walls are very similar to particle board!”

bee-info3

Diagram from”animals how stuff works . here

and a photo of their extraordinarily accomplished woodwork

abeille-apidae-xylocopinae-carpenter bee busyPhoto Stephen Buchmann

Also  accompanying the article is Prof Buchmann’s wonderful photo, demonstrating the huge difference in sizes between the bee species

peridita_minima_carpbee_lg

The smallest and the largest: a Perdita minima on a female carpenter bee's head. Photo by Stephen Buchmann.

Anna, from Anna’s Bee World, who also very kindly helped me identify my Blue Wasp has this photo on her blog and explains how it was achieved.

This photo was taken by one of my graduate advisors, Stephen Buchmann, who is a renowned bee expert. He has this amazing amazing microscope, and an artful eye. These two bees are real, but obviously dead. He took a Carpenter bee, which are known as some of the largest bees (gentle giants) and he took the smallest bee in the world (Perdita minima) and glued the small bee onto the antennae of the carpenter bee. He thought it would bee (sorry, had to throw that in) cool to show people the size difference between the largest bee and smallest bee. It’s the photo you would see in the bee version of the Guinness World Records.There is a scale bar at the bottom of the photo, but I am not sure what the scale is (1mm?). I couldn’t find that. I assume it is 1mm since Perdita minima usually measures about 2mm in size  (0.078 inches).

See Anna’s Bee World here.

Two millimeters for the tiny Perdita minima!!!. I will not be attempting to paint that one.

Its rather a shame to see how many sites are dedicated to the eradication of this “nuisance” bee. It seems they don’t actually do too much harm and are so very beautiful and although quite territorial they are not really aggressive (the male bees cannot sting). I did read that if you want to “move” a Carpenter Bee, you throw a small pebble just past him. He will think it is another bee and go chasing after it. He may not be the sharpest bee in the box then, but his looks are enough to fall in love with.

There are certainly quite a few round here and, having a subversive streak myself, I rather like the idea of them infiltrating the neat timber porches and verandahs of Baldwin Park and setting up some little families there.  Their chewing can apparently be heard several feet away. :)

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A preliminary sketch: What distinguishes them from Bumble Bees is their glossy hairless abdomen .. and their size!

 3 carpenters sm jpg

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Bee No 5: The Stripy Halictid Sweat Bee, Agapostemon splendens

The delightful and inquisitive little sweat bee, from the family Halictidae. Known as sweat bees because some of them have shown an interest in the saltiness of human sweat, more usually the dark species than this green and striped one. There are more than 1000 types of sweat bees and they come in black, brown, red or green/blue, metallic and striped. I use the excellent Bugguide.net for much of my information.

The facts 

CLASS: Insecta
ORDER: Hymenoptera, Bees, wasps, ants and sawflies.
SUPERFAMILY: Apoidea. Bees and some wasps.
FAMILY: Halictidae (Sweat Bees)
GENUS: Agapostemon (Metallic Green Bees)
SPECIES: Agapostemon splendens

Agapostemon sweat bees are regarded as solitary bees. Females dig burrows deep into the ground and fashion small cells which they supply with provisions of pollen and nectar. In each cell she lays an egg. Each burrow will contain several cells. Some sweat bees though do seem to share nesting sites and so are thought to be in between the true solitary bees and the very social honey bees. The correct term is “eusocial”.  Communal nesting is advantageous as while some bees are away looking for food the others can be defending the nest site.

The Halictid family is ancient and species have been found in amber dating back over 40 million years. 

image

This little fossil Halictus petrefactus, from Spain, is approx 20 million years old, (from  the American Museum of Natural History publication here.)  It is still a matter of debate as to when exactly bees evolved and which came first, bees or flowers. Discoveries of bee nests in logs of the Petrified Forest in Arizona point to bees being in existence as far back as 220 million years ago, before the  arrival of flowering plants, which upsets the theory that flowering plants and bees evolved together.If so what did the bees live on ? The bee nests indicate that the species was very similar to the Halictids.

 hallictid

Read more about this fascinating topic in the New York Times article from 1995 here. I haven’t yet found any more recent information.

My model for this small study was very much alive and well. They are inquisitive, quick moving and alert little bees, and completely captivating to watch. I will be back to this bee to make a larger painting soon. These studies are only 3.5 inches and I am looking forward to exploring this particular bee in more detail, if my eyesight holds out.

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Bee No 5 Agapostemon splendens

 halictid agapostemon

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Staring at Weeds

I took some time this week to go and and watch the few bees that are still flying. It’s completely fascinating, I have never before really observed bees with anything but a passing curiosity. I circle the lake on the bike and screech to a halt at any patch of flowers that might yield up a few bees. The joggers and dog walkers give me a wide berth and look away, not wanting to make eye contact with a mad woman who is standing transfixed, staring at weeds. I have my obvious camera with me which helps but you have to be patient, stand still, watch and wait.
But I have been rewarded with sightings of a million more green and stripy Agapostemons and another beautiful blue/green metallic bee which I think is an Augochlora from the same Halictid family. I have seen tiny Mining bees with yellow pollen laden legs on matching Indian Blanket flowers and the huge Carpenter bees who ponderously drift from flower to flower, making them easier to photograph than many.

carp

At Leu Gardens, it is more acceptable to stop and stare. I have seen a honey bee taking time out to clean itself from an overload of sticky pollen. I have watched bees of different species disputing the nectar of the big hisbiscus flowers. Here two fighting Agapostemon bees tumble out in a tangle of legs the metallic Augochlora in the background.

I spent a good hour in front of the Michaelmas daisies, watching bees and flies and beautiful thread waisted wasps.

miner bee sm

I sat in the butterfly garden mesmerised as I saw this lizard leap from its lookout post onto a nearby flower and devour one of my little stripy friends..but that's life..

You can just see the body of the bee in the lizard's mouth.

….and I did get some initial sketches done of my elegant little model from earlier in the week .. I hope he has not suffered the same fate.

Halictid bee: Agapostemon splendens

sketch sm

Waking up after chilling in the cooler..

col sketch small

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

A Live Model

I am frustrated if I can’t see the real thing when I am drawing. That is my preferred reference, a photo of my own is second best and then the last resort is searching through hundreds of reference photos of my subject, drawing it over and over again until I understand how it works and what  I am trying to do. It can be a long job.

Bee number 5 is to be the tiny little metallic green sweat bee. One of the Halictid family. My biggest admission here is that I have never seen them before.. and that is only because I wasn’t looking or rather wasn’t seeing.  I also thought they would be bigger. Before I started this project, bees, to me, came in two sizes.. bumble and honey, but these are tiny, and look more like our UK hover flies.  To see them you have to adjust your focus and tell your brain to pick up on tiny things.. once you have done that you will see them (if you live in Florida anyway), literally thousands of them, all over horse mint, the daisies and the roses.

Yesterday I went to Leu Gardens to try to get a decent photo or two and by accident met my friend Robert who was photographing butterflies. I explained my frustration, lack of a decent camera etc etc . “Well” he said, “what you need to do is catch one and pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes.” This literally chills them out enough for you to photograph them while they warm up.

This morning I went back to the horsemint on the lakeshore and tentatively captured a bee…it wasn’t difficult, they are too busy gathering nectar to notice. I put a large plastic bag over a large head of mint and cut the stem, then took the bag, mint and bee home.  My model was still quite busy clambering about the mint, so it was not difficult to transfer it in a glass jar and to the fridge.

I have to say I was worried about this. I don’t want to kill anything even for my “art”.  But both the bee and I survived and an hour later I was able to let it go, back to the very same spot. It immediately continued gathering nectar as if nothing had happened.

The photos are not great by professional terms but I am so pleased. Apart from the photos, I was able to watch the little stripy bee wake up slowly and give itself a good sprucing up which seemed to involve a lot of antennae preening. I could see the beautiful black markings on its yellow legs and the glittering iridescence of its head and thorax. From what I can see this is Agapostemon splendens.

I did take lots of photos, many were out of focus as I am having to use an enlarging ring to get close enough which is something new to me … but here are just a few of the reasonable ones:

bee in jar

Bee in jar with some Horsemint.

out of the jar

Coming out of the jar.

bee and ruler 

Bee waking up .. see how very small he is.

bee preening

Bee sprucing up, he was using his front leg to wipe his face and antennae.

Bee glaring at me …

back to work

and straight back to work ….

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Bee No 4: The Common Eastern Bumble Bee, Bombus impatiens and some Impatient Bee Waving.

Since starting this project I have been looking for bees here in Orlando and have watched and photographed quite a few of these little cream and black bees. This is the Common Eastern Bumble Bee, Bombus impatiens. Name? .. well I am not sure, but I have read that it might be because it likes the “impatiens” flower.  However, observing its darting flight and very short flower stops, maybe it’s because of its impatient nature.  This is a native American Bumble Bee which seems to be the one most studied and most useful for agriculture in the USA. They are certainly very common here in Orlando.

The facts 

CLASS: Insecta
ORDER: Hymenoptera, Bees, wasps, ants and sawflies.
SUPERFAMILY: Apoidea. Bees and some wasps.
FAMILY: Apidae. Bees.
GENUS: Bombus. Bumblebees
SPECIES: Bombus impatiens

302f1

This nice clear photo of pinned specimens shows the comparative sizes of the queen to worker to male. from the University of Maine’s Bilberry growing document here.

Size 
Queen: 20 to 21mm in length.
Worker: 9 to 17.5mm in length.
Male: 12.5 to 16mm in length..

This is a wide ranging bee, seen across eastern North America from Ontario to Maine and south to Florida. Their value to agriculture above other bumblebees is because they make large colonies of up to 450 workers and are now bred especially for the pollination of farm vegetables.  They are tireless workers and are not put off by cooler or adverse weather conditions as are honey bees.

 It seems that one factor in the recent decline of bumble bees in general is the loss of wild habitat which is rich in different types of flowers. These bees need to be able to feed from April to November. My snap taken last week is of the Bombus impatiens on the nearby Spotted Horse Mint which is growing enthusiastically on the weedy strip of land around Lake Baldwin and the path. It is covered with bees, flies and wasps.

impatiens

Growing more bumble bee friendly flowers can help, so grow these: poppies, mint, tomatoes, nettles, convolvulus, any legumes, saxifrage and asters.  There were many many impatiens on the blue Michaelmas daisies at Leu this week.

Alex Wild Photography 

I really struggle to get a good bee photograph, I don't really have the eyesight or the correct macro lenses or a high res camera, so I am in awe of some of the fabulous photos I see on the internet. If you Google “Bombus impatiens” you will inevitably see the photos of Alex Wild. I wrote to Alex to ask his permission to put these on the blog, not only are they charming and wonderful but they demonstrate a nice little bit of bee behaviour.

Taken at the Laboratory colony of B impatiens at the University of Arizona they record an encounter between two bees and show the difference in sizes between worker bees.. not the queen and worker as you might think.

 

247424189_HjN8P-M

 

 Bombus5 

 

Captioned AAaaaaaahhhhh!!!!! A Bee!!!!!” .. this wonderful photo demonstrates what happens when the impatient bee has run right out of its small allocation of patience. The raising of a middle leg signifies a bee is getting irritated and is showing both alarm and a warning. If I were that little bee I am not sure I would be wanting to annoy my very large companion. I am going to ask Alex what was happening. It’s a good tip to know though, when getting up close and personal with bees. 

Another photo from his portfolio is of a nest of little research B impatiens bees at Arizona. The bees are numbered so scientists can track their individual activities.

 248208611_JNKVw-M-2

See more of his really stunning insect photos at Alex Wild Photography here and on his blog  at http://myrmecos.wordpress.com/. He also has some articles on how he achieves his photographs which I really do need to read!

 

But, back to drawing and some initial sketches of the impatient bumble bee.

bombus impatiens sketches

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Bee No 4: The Common Eastern Bumble Bee, Bombus Impatiens.

Bombus impatiens sm